In Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, South Sudan, where on-going insecurity and environmental issues makes access to food difficult, community nutrition worker Simon Deng Garrang is bringing urgently needed care to children with severe acute malnutrition. Share Simon’s story and help raise awareness of the emergency situation he faces on World Hunger Day, 28 May.
Children in Northern Bahr el Ghazal are at high risk of malnutrition. Left untreated it is a life-threatening condition which contributes to around 2.6 million deaths of young children, under the age of five, each year.
Simon Deng Garrang is a community nutrition worker in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, South Sudan where is the food security situation is described as ‘stressed’, a result of flooding, cattle rustling, an influx of returning refugees and on-going insecurity.
Trained and supported through Malaria Consortium’s emergency nutrition programme, run in partnership with the Government of South Sudan (Ministry of Health), Simon is working to tackle malnutrition in his area.
The emergency nutrition programme, supported by DFID/UKAid and UN agencies, involves assessing and treating children with symptoms of severe acute malnutrition at ’outpatient therapeutic sites‘, set up in accessible locations in the community.
‘The child is our problem. They [the caregivers] are supposed to tell me how this child is,’ Simon explains whilst examining a patient at the post he has set up under a tree in a village in Aweil West. He interviews mothers and examines their children, carefully looking for symptoms of illness or malnourishment. He weighs the children and measures their mid-upper arm circumference using a specially designed tape. He’s been trained to use these measurements to determine whether a child is severely malnourished. He also knows the appropriate treatment and can assess when a child is in need of hospital-based care.
Malnutrition can be both a cause and effect of other common childhood illnesses – including pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria. The emergency nutrition programme is just one part of Malaria Consortium’s wider efforts to reduce mortality in children under-five through integrated community case management; an approach that addresses multiple diseases and malnutrition among under-five children together. By taking a comprehensive approach and addressing them together, the programme aims to have a bigger impact on child mortality in the region.
Using his training and his handbook, Simon dispenses medicines or food supplements to his patients, with particular care in explaining their use.‘The Plumpy’nut is for one child only,’ Deng explains to a mother, explaining what she needs to know for administering the therapeutic food supplement.
While Simon’s work has been successful, emergency nutrition programmes in Northern Bahr el Ghazal face many challenges.
‘Logistics are a challenge, a big challenge. We work in remote areas where, especially in rainy seasons, some places are not accessible,’ says Lucy Kovaki, a Malaria Consortium Nutrition Programme Officer.
Volunteers like Simon continue their work in spite of these challenges, because they are often the only point of contact between health services and the remote communities they serve.
This World Hunger Day, 28 May, help to raise awareness of Simon’s work and the emergency nutrition situation in the north of his country.
To see a photostory about Simon's work, please click here.
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